Arianna Huffington's On Becoming Fearless...in Love, Work, and Life sparked my desire for self-improvement and sent me diving into a candid critique of my personality, values, and goals. I began reading Huffington's book as motivation to follow through with my 2012 New Year's resolution -- to say "yes" more. Over the past year, I have made a decided effort to open myself up to new experiences and resist my instinct to shy away from discomfort. In sharing two of my small attempts at becoming fearless, I hope they might resonate with you or perhaps even inspire you to begin your own journey toward fearlessness.
My first notable victory over fear occurred during the week I spent in Aspen, Colo. with a group of friends. If you know me at all, you know that I'm athletic, but a week of outdoor adventures is not my definition of a relaxing getaway. On the third day of our trip, the agenda was to scale Aspen Mountain at an altitude of 11,000 feet. In accordance with my New Year's resolution, I resisted the temptation to tell everyone I'd meet them at the base of the mountain and found myself trudging alongside my bright-eyed environmental science major friends. The mixture of dry air and high altitude equated to a mental and physical struggle. I battled the negativity that seeped like sweat from my pores. I struggled to justify my decision to make the climb, eventually pointing to delayed gratification as the answer when I envisioned the spectacular view from the top. Although I only made it three-quarters up the mountain, as a "beginner" hiker on an "expert" level mountain, I had something to smile about. I am confident that next time I will stand proudly at the top.
In my second attempt to act fearlessly, I set aside my rejection anxiety for the possibility of receiving recognition in a national literary journal. After completing an advanced creative non-fiction seminar in college, I was ready to take on the next big challenge. As an amateur writer, however, the idea of competing against professionals sounded like a complete waste of time. Despite my cynicism, my professor cheered me on, reminding me that I had nothing to lose and instilling in me a sense of resilience. Lo and behold, seven rejection letters piled up in my inbox, stabbing my ego a little more firmly each time. While the rejection was written loud and clear, the positive feedback and words of encouragement from numerous editors helped preserve some of my self-esteem. While my writing may never find a place in the bound pages of a national literary journal, I have my professor to thank for pushing me to come to terms with failure.
Arianna Huffington's book taught me that as human beings, we may never completely come to terms with failure, but we can get a heck of a lot closer if we try. While my progress has been gradual, failure and rejection have become less prominent factors in my decision-making process. My goal is to embrace change and uncertainty as I get older rather than submit to an apprehensive lifestyle. We can all make an effort to say "yes" more and reshape the rigid mold we have created for ourselves. I urge you to reflect on the past year and recall a specific moment of fearlessness in your life: Perhaps you negotiated with your boss for a well-deserved raise or tried a tae kwon do class for the first time. As you sit down to write your New Year's resolutions for 2013, I hope becoming fearless makes the list.
For more by Jennifer Langione, click here.
For more on wisdom, click here.